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Paul G. Stevens

In the World of Labor

(30 June 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 46, 30 June 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Aftermath of Belgian Elections: An Attack against the Miners

Taking heart from the rightward trend in the recent elections, the Belgian bosses are launching a large-scale onslaught on the conditions obtained by the working class of that country during the great strikes of 1936. As a first step, the mine barons are proceeding against the coal diggers of the Borinage section, in an attempt to scale down present conditions in the new agreement. The Borinage section is known as a hot-bed of militancy. As such it has been chosen purposely, to test the ground for the great struggle ahead. If they succeed here, the bosses calculate, half their battle is won.

When the new terms were offered the miners of the Levant and Produits du Flenu pits, they were rejected out of hand. The bosses replied by locking out the workers of these pits, some 5,000 miners. The reformist leaders of the miners’ union have, up to the present, contented themselves with appeals for aid to King Leopold, calling on the workers to remain calm and accustom themselves to the unemployment relief to which they are entitled as a result of the lock-out. Since, as is self-evident, no family can very long subsist on the meagre dole, such a course cannot help leading to a break-down of the miners’ resistance if persisted in.

Our comrades of the Revolutionary Socialist Party of Belgium, concentrating their forces to this region, are holding successful meetings in all the mining towns urging the workers of the Borinage to bring pressure for the calling of a general strike in support of the Levant and Flenu miners. The movement in this direction is growing. A twenty-four hour sympathy strike has already been proposed in several unions. The success of such action alone, our comrades argue can forestall the wholesale onslaught on Belgian labor being cooked up by the bosses.

Another Sample of French Democracy in the Colonies

Recently we reported in these columns the great election victory of the Popular Party of Algiers, the Algerian party which is closely allied with the French revolutionary socialists. Douar Mohamed, of that party was elected as a general councillor.

Now the Council of the Prefecture, the agency of the French colonial office, has seen fit to annul his election on the petition of his pro-imperialist opponent, Zerrouk. The latter was declared elected although he polled less than 3,000 votes out of a total of 15,000 cast.

The grounds for the decision are so flimsy, that French friends of the P.P.A. expect to carry the fight against it with considerable support.

A Voice in the Wilderness: Anti-War Speaker at Southport

Most of the speeches at the recent Southport conference of the British Labour Party were, of course, in favor of the “war against the aggressors” and in “defense of democracy,” laying the ground for the acceptance of conscription. One of the most rabid war mongers was party leader Hugh Dalton. Apparently Dalton’s spiel was too much for one old-time militant who found his way to the conference by chance. Here is how one of the British papers reported his reaction:

“Mr. J. Wood (Moseley), a self-styled old soldier who waved the Guards necktie to the delegates said:

“‘My greatest enemy during the war was not the “Jerry” on the other side of No Man’s Land, but my own Sergeant-Major.

“‘Let Sergeant-Major Dalton do his own dirty work when the war comes. I’m not going to do it – not Pygmalion likely!’”

The Labour Party’s Daily Herald did not see fit to include this speech in its accounts of the conference sessions.

Strike Waves Gaining Momentum in India

Comrade Stanley submits the following item:

Official strike statistics for 1938 just published by the Government of India indicate the extent of the revival in the Indian revolutionary and nationalist movement.

Strikes in 1938 were the highest on record for the past 20 years. There were 399 of them as compared with 379 for 1937. The number of working days on strike (not hours, as in American statistics – S.S.) was 9,000,000 and the workers were successful in 46% of the strikes.

Textile workers (the “untouchables” of India) again proved themselves to be the vanguard of the Indian proletariat. They accounted for 39% of the strikes, 70.8% of the workers involved and 71.1% of the working days spent on strike.

Two major working class activities are now under way in India. Both, in all likelihood, will lead to All-India general strikes involving the textile and railway workers. The former, concentrated in Bombay, Allahabad, Cawnpur, Ahmedabad, etc., are already preparing a general strike to combat a proposed 12% wage cut. The railway workers, solidly organized in the All-India Railwaymens’ Federation, have presented demands with a 3-month ultimatum, half of which has already passed.

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